Sometimes there’s a great mystery to be uncovered within your own family history. If you want to introduce your kids to stories about genealogy, look no further than your public library. As a librarian and mom, I love searching the stacks for stories that provide insight, guidance, and fun on this subject. These are my top five favorites to share with preschool and grade school readers.
Fancy Nancy: My Family History
by Jane O’ Connor (author) and Robin Preiss Glasser (illustrator)
Nancy expresses her affinity for the elegant by using big words, peppering her speech with French phrases, and embracing her inner savoir faire. In this story, Nancy is writing a family history report for class but struggles with how to make her relatives seem extraordinary. She exaggerates her great-grandparent’s story only to later learn that it’s better to stick to the plain truth.
As an “I Can Read: Level 1” book, loquacious Nancy will introduce early readers to common genealogy terms like ancestor and deceased.
This Is Me: A Story of Who We Are and Where We Came From
by Jamie Lee Curtis (author) and Lauren Cornell (illustrator)
(Workman Publishing Company)
In this storybook from actress Jamie Lee Curtis, a teacher tells her class the tale of her great-grandmother’s immigration to the United States with nothing but a few treasured possessions in a small suitcase. When the students are asked what they would pack, their answers provide peeks into their own cultures and histories that proudly declare “This is me!”
A pop-up suitcase at the back of the book is perfect for engaging little ones about what treasured items they would take with them to a new place – as well as a wonderful way to start talking about your own family’s migration journeys.
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
by Lindsay Mattick (author) and Sophie Blackall (illustrator)
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
As a story within a story, the book begins with a mother telling her son about how veterinarian Harry Colebourn bought a baby black bear from a trapper on his way to Europe during World War I. Colebourn named the bear Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada and traveled with him to England. The bear became a popular mascot with Colebourn’s unit during their training, but was left behind with the London Zoo when they shipped off to France. It was there that Winnie caught the attention of author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin – and became the inspiration for an entirely new series of stories.
The Keeping Quilt
by Patricia Polacco (author, illustrator)
(Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books)
The memories of author Patricia Polacco’s Russian Jewish ancestors are preserved through a quilt made from their clothes, including a babushka, shirt, nightdress, and apron. For four generations, it is passed from mother to daughter and doubles as a Sabbath tablecloth, a wedding canopy, and baby blanket. The quilt endures as a constant connection between the past and the present.
For seamstresses in the family, this book is an ideal spark for a new sewing project. Kids can get involved by choosing which scraps of fabric from around the house to use in their new blanket.
The Memory String
by Eve Bunting (author) and Ted Rand (illustrator)
(HMH Books for Young Readers)
Laura inherits her great-grandmother’s memory string, a collection of buttons from her family’s most important garments. Laura treasures the buttons belonging to her mother – one from her prom dress, her wedding dress, and the nightgown she was wearing when she died. When the string breaks and beads are lost, Laura must accept help from her new stepmother to find them. Ultimately, Laura realizes that new memories can be added while still preserving those of the past.
Encourage budding heirloom collectors by letting kids determine what items would make up their own memory string (or box or book).